KENYA: Imported second hand vehicles would not gain customs clearance now, until they have been given registration number. This has been decided because of the lack of adequate vehicle registration number plates. However, the importers are in trouble as this often leads to the stockpiling of thousands of vehicles in Container Freight Stations (CFSs). The number plates are manufactured by the prisons department with Kamiti Maximum Prison producing about 1,000 pieces a day.
But according to Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) Chairman Peter Otieno, this is not enough for the small cars, motorbikes, tuk tuks, heavy vehicles, tractors and specialised vehicles that come into the country daily. “[For cars alone], we need to have a minimum of about 1,500 number plates a day. In fact, if they can produce about 2,000 a day, then nobody would need to wait for cars from CFSs,” he said. With the motor vehicle market usually peaking towards the end of the year, imports of small cars have increased to about 15,000 units per month since October, against a usual average of 12,000. “If you are lucky, it takes about three days to get a number plate, but on average, it takes a week or two,” said Mr Otieno.
He added that as a result of a number plates shortage in the last three months, CFS storage costs per vehicle have increased from a low of Sh19,600 to Sh39,200. This is in addition to importers getting saddled with extra warehousing charges imposed by the customs authority after their vehicles stay at the port for longer than 21 days after landing. The situation is also worsening congestion at the port, with CFSs struggling to find space to accommodate incoming cargo. Last week’s decision by the Customs Department to have car dealers submit request letters to clear their vehicles and bypass the delays occasioned by an inadequate supply of number plates is brewing controversy rather than relief in the industry.